Do your own rendering! (and beware the software look)

It may be both counter intuitive and common sense for me to advocate doing your own renderings. But here is why i suggest it. 

Firstly, why would i give up business and have you do your own renderings? Simply put, if you can do them as well as me or my team, then you probably didn't need me in the first place. Skills aside, if time or resources prove a limit to your office, you know where to find me. So far I’m not worried about loosing business. 

But what if you aren’t as sophisticated with your arch viz capabilities and you still decide to do it yourself- have I lost business in that case? Nope. Not yet. Fact is, if you’re interested in improving your abilities to be more self sufficient, more power to you. And if it’s because you don’t think I’m worth it and your image is just fine, well then I was never going to be hired in the first place. My first point is that if you need and value my skills then you’ll hire me.  

When should you do your own rendering? When should you have a professional do it? (On this matter I can only speak for myself.)  

Well, you can probably drive… and say one day you find yourself sitting in a formula one car... does that mean you can race formula one? You might have the will to race, and even the resources and permissions necessary to race. But if you want that formula one car to finish strong, turn it over to a professional driver. You might even be able to get it over the finish line in one piece, but a pro will cross the line, place in the top three, and be on the podium while you’re still stripping the gears around the second lap. 

 Hidden in that analogy are three key points for rendering. First is the altruism, you have the freedom to make your own success or failures… that’s an important part of democracy and capitalism. One weighs the odds, makes a decision, and lives with the outcomes of that choice. If you can reach the full potential of your design development, your marketing, and your image by producing your own image, fine. Second point: If you have the time to dedicate to seeing a visualization through all its stages and are fully aware of the technical, emotional, narrative, aesthetic, and political aspects involved, good for you. Finally, If you have a team ready to go at a moments’ notice to push the project through with the same expertise as you have, more power to you. Making a visualization is rarely as simple making an image of your design, because your design is constantly changing. Essentially, if you have all the time, knowledge, ability, and equipment as the arch viz professional, then chances are, you never needed me to begin with. 

All this is leading up to a reality that is a bit more subjective. I call to the stand SketchUp and Lumion. Gasp!

We leverage everything- even models and drawings- to be purposeful in as broad a manner as possible. Suppose you’re designing a new wing to the alumni center on the campus of a prominent university. You've had the time and other resources to do the modeling yourself. You’re using SketchUp to mass it up, and as the design develops the model becomes more refined (massing, placement of windows, and tweak materials, etc).  Eventually the client asks for an image to help the fundraising campaign. Adorned with 3d Wearhouse trees and the same tired SketchUp people that betray every SketchUp model out there, you export a scene and drop in a sunny sky using Photoshop. Now suddenly your design tool is out there trying to sell your design. Design tools are effective because they allow you to make mistakes while focusing on pragmatic issues, general in concept or specific to a particular challenge. Marketing tools are not that. Presentation images have to come out looking more put together, confident and resolved. By sending an unpolished model out of the pits, you may have sent out a student drivers to race a formula one car! 

In another project you’ve developed a small parcel of land on the lake for three luxury homes. You may have started in SketchUp, but now you’re into Revit. And even as fantastic as rendering in the cloud has made Revit, that’s just not going to cut it for this job because you want to show landscape and people enjoying their homes. You’ve got Lumion! So in a short time you’ve loaded your detailed Revit models into Lumion, added Lumion grass, Lumion trees, Lumion people, and Lumion weather. And like magic you have a dozen still views and a fly through video to boot! Without getting into a discussion of quantify over quality, if you have produced imagery that works well for you, no doubt you are happy,  your client’s happy, the community is happy, the squirrels are happy. Lumion was successful for you and there’s no arguing it. 

You may already be aware of this, but I offer this critique as food for thought. You can spend your money on a piece of software that produces a specific look, a singular level of quality, and finite pallet of entourage, and allow yourself to be fixed with that for every project; whereas the artist dictates the feel instead of the software. As an early design and even presentation aide, Lumion might be fine. Indeed some projects are going to call for quality that exceeds that of a video game with it’s infinite plane and repeating textures; or they may need landscaping and entourage that’s not included with your software package. You may not see these as issues, but if you aren’t flexible enough to up the ante, your project image may never reach its full potential. Instead of that essential emotional connection you want people to have with your design, they may be too distracted by the software look. 

Although I called Lumion to the stand, I’m not picking on Lumion. Nor am I picking on Revit or SketchUp. I am certainly not picking on anyone who uses them- I use these packages and enjoy them for what they are. My point is that the same aesthetic is not always appropriate for every situation. The loose design sketch may work to sell your initial idea but it is insufficient to resolve more practical issues. Likewise, showing a photorealistic rendering to try and convey a general design concept can result in distracting people from the real intent of showing the image in the first place. 

Sometimes you should do your own renderings. Sometimes it’s better to have a professional help out. I'll be here if you need me.